GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks hit new highs; Portugal bond boosts sentiment
* MSCI share index at highest since 2008; DAX at record high * German data lifts euro, possible ECB action caps gains * Aussie dollar falls on RBA rate cut By Rodrigo Campos NEW YORK, May 7 (Reuters) - Major stock indexes in Germany and the United States hit all-time highs on Tuesday after data bolstered expectations that Germany has returned to growth, while a successful bond sale in Portugal indicated the country is on track to exit its bailout. The Reserve Bank of Australia surprised markets with a cut in interest rates to a record low, highlighting the pressure a stubbornly high currency is putting on the resource-exporting economy. The euro firmed against most currencies following strong data on German industrial orders, but bets on further monetary easing at the European Central Bank kept gains in check. Germany, Europe's largest economy, reported a 2.2 percent rise in industrial orders in March, compared with expectations for a 0.5 percent drop. Frankfurt's DAX became the first of the major European indexes to breach the record high set in 2007, following in the footsteps of the U.S. S&P 500, which has been setting record highs since mid-April. MSCI's global index topped its June 2008 high after Japan's stock market, which had been closed on Monday, soared in a delayed reaction to Friday's strong U.S. jobs data. The global index was up 0.7 percent at 373.45. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 touched an intraday record high of 1,625.91. In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 76.31 points or 0.51 percent, to 15,045.2, the S&P 500 gained 7.61 points or 0.47 percent, to 1,625.11 and the Nasdaq Composite added 3.33 points or 0.1 percent, to 3,396.3 "We've been in this market where even the slightest bit of decline is met with a bounce right back up. That just shows there are still people waiting to get into equities," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York. Caterpillar Inc, the world's largest construction and mining equipment maker, was the Dow's biggest percentage gainer, rising 2.1 percent at $89.39. With key economies like the United States seeing a patchy recovery but others struggling to maintain growth, major central banks around the world have shown over the last few weeks they intend to keep stimulus flowing freely for now. Australia's central bank cut rates to a low of 2.75 percent on Tuesday and suggested it may ease further. The move came after the head of the ECB, Mario Draghi, on Monday reiterated the bank's readiness to trim rates again if needed, following a rate cut last week. The growth-linked Aussie dollar was last at US$1.0178, down 0.7 percent on the day. The euro hit a session high of $1.3131 after the German data and was last trading up 0.1 percent at $1.3084. Gains in the euro, which is down 0.8 percent against the dollar so far this year, could prove transitory, however, should the euro zone continue to languish in a recession that motivates the ECB to ease monetary policy further. Portugal sold 3 billion euros in its first 10-year bond in more than two years, putting the country on course to exit its bailout on time and qualify for a debt support program from the ECB. Portuguese benchmark yields, however, edged up to 5.532 percent from 5.524 at the close on Monday. Spanish and Italian bond yields - a proxy for borrowing costs - edged lower while safe-haven German Bund yields were at an almost four-week high. Prices of U.S. Treasuries fell for a third session after a three-year note sale brought few surprises, with the outlook for an economic recovery offset by the sluggish pace of U.S. growth and government stimulus plans around the world. Benchmark 10-year note yields rose to 1.78 percent, up from 1.76 percent on Monday and the highest since April 12. "Despite the backup (in rates) there's not a real rush to be a buyer down here," said Kim Rupert, managing director of global fixed income analysis at Action Economics LLC in San Francisco. "With Q2 not looking like a real pickup in growth either and with so much stimulus globally, it's hard to hammer this market lower." The result, Rupert said, is a range-bound market, with investors feeling little urgency to take a position. Persistent worries about demand from top consumers such as China tempered gains in commodity prices. Three-month copper hit a three-week high of $7,374 a ton before paring gains to trade up less than 0.1 percent at $7,265. Copper on Monday posted its largest daily percentage gain since October 2011, though prices are more than 8 percent lower for the year. Brent crude oil prices fell in the absence of clear signs of strengthening global demand, traders said. In a choppy session, Brent was down 1 percent at $104.43 and U.S. crude shed 0.5 percent to $95.71.
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